I see a lot of parents and coaches, who concerned about the safety of ‘strength training’ for their children, choose to wait until after puberty before starting athletic development. Coaches may call this the end of Training to Train and the start of Training to Compete.
While I understand where everyone is coming from, there is a major piece to the puzzle missing. Once a child goes through puberty, coordination usually falls behind, because their limb lengths are now much bigger, and they didn’t know how to control the smaller ones!
Gaining coordination as a young child, whether resisted with external loading or not, is extremely important to avoid this awkward stage that sometimes comes about with puberty. Resistance training is not unsafe for children (assuming you are supervised by a qualified individual…) and athletic development coaches will want to see effective use of body weight first none the less.
If you want to be a well coordinated athlete who can stay injury proof through your teens, learning how to move and control your body before puberty is much more efficient than waiting!
If you want to talk performance, you are able to get strong and powerful SOONER!
Kids are allowed to run and jump all they want in sport without restrictions, so why are we afraid to allow them to learn how to control their bodies under supervision? Something is missing here…
This is a debate I’ve seen going for a while now between strength coaches and personal trainers. Some believe that Olympic Weightlifting (Clean and Jerk and Snatch) is a fantastic tool for developing explosive power in athletes and others believe they’re unnecessary or too complicated to teach to any athletes who are not competing in Olympic lifting. If you’ve read this blog at all then you’ll know that my brother and I are huge fans of Olympic lifting. Not only do I think they have a huge upside and benefit for athletes but I think it would be great to see more individuals get involved in the sport itself, whether it be kids or adults.
First off, I’m only describing the benefits to using Olympic lifts with athletes as long as you’re with them for a decent amount of time and if you have the facility for it. You’d be surprised how well they can learn within only a few sessions so it’s not like you need to be with these athletes for years. I’m also not saying that you definitely HAVE to do Olympic lifting, just that you’d be smart to include them in your programming with most athletes – assuming you’re qualified to coach/teach them.
One of the biggest (and worst) excuses as to why people don’t use the Olympic lifts is that they don’t have the positioning or mobility for it. I can’t stand that one. This should be a gift as a strength coach; it should be an opportunity to identify a weakness and correct it. If you’ve identified poor shoulder range of motion, the inability to hold the bar in the rack position, or God forbid, the inability to get to the bottom of a deep squat position then these athletes would benefit from addressing these things immediately. These things aren’t just benefits for Olympic lifters, these things are weaknesses if you knowingly allow them to plague your athletes. Using the Olympic lifts not only builds explosive power, but also reinforce good mobility and helps build shoulder stability. It’s also a great tool for building up the nervous system and developing coordination, in Olympic lifting you need to turn on that explosive burst at just the right time, not unlike many other sports.
Another common reason to avoid using Olympic lifts is that you don’t “Need” to do them to develop power in athletes. This is true, I can’t argue against that. One could include lots of Plyometrics in their programming and still develop power. The question is more about efficiency, why would you knowingly avoid an exercise when you know that it is one of the BEST ways to develop power. It’s also true that you don’t NEED to squat to develop leg strength, but you won’t see me take them out of my programs anytime soon. If you’ve ever lifted weights then you’ll know how much more work you do just by trying to lift the weights a little faster. Now think of the clean and jerk – I’m going to over simplify it here – you rip the weight off the floor and throw it as high as you can so you can catch it and then accelerate it over your head. How would that NOT develop explosiveness? Here’s a quotation from famous Olympic lifting coach Bob Takano, “Any Athlete or Coach interested in developing optimal power must look to the methods of the weightlifters for the most effective strategies in the training of explosive athleticism” (Takano, Bob, coaching optimal technique in the snatch and clean and jerk Part 1). In fact, many elite athletes do focus on the Olympic lifts for their power development. One of the most pure expressions of power in sport is bobsleigh, 4 (or 2) athletes push a sled as hard and as fast as they can for an extremely short distance. In their training, they incorporate the Olympic lifts quite a bit, just like skiers and sprinters to name a few more (eg., Cody Sorensen below).
You see, just because something is difficult to learn, doesn’t mean it’s not worth teaching. The whole point of teaching athletes the techniques and skills early is so they can progress and use large weights with these lifts. This is where the real benefit comes, moving high weights at high speeds. Any athlete can power clean or power snatch with tens on each side, but true power development comes with large weights – relative to your body mass. If you’ve done physics in high school then you’ll recognize the equation: F=MA (“Force equals Mass times Acceleration”). Let’s do a simple calculation, if you give the mass and acceleration an arbitrary number of 1, F=1×1=1 . If we double the mass and the speed, F=2×2=4, we can see that the force is 4 times higher. Thus, if we can have our athletes comfortable enough with the olympic lifts to really start to progress to heavier weights, we can have our athletes generating incredible forces during training which will then increase their output in competitions.
Let’s be smart coaches and start to utilize the athletic potential with our athletes. If we only do slow strength movements, our strength will increase but it wont necessarily give us more power output, utilizing the olympic lifts will increase power production and teach athletes to generate high forces.
(Graham and Candace ARE NOT Razor’s Edge Performance supported athletes, but their performances are none the less impressive. They both train at FITS.)
Now let’s get on a platform and go hit some new PRs!
This post was originally written by Cory Kennedy for http://www.fitstoronto.com
I don’t know if i’m crazy, or if most athletic development coaches should think like me, but I always look to track and field for answers. I know that other sports have certain components that track doesn’t take into account, but track is all about developing pure athleticism so I feel there is a lot to be learned from this group of coaches and athletes. So I am going to use a track metaphor to talk about grit, commitment, and dedication. Olympic medals are sometimes decided by hundredths of a second, or centimetres in jumps and throws. The average athlete might not even be within a few tenths of a second if they ran the 100m final multiple times (not in a row of course…haha). This makes these hundredths of a second crucial for a sprinter.
In one of my favourite movies, Any Given Sunday, Al Pacino has a riveting speech about football being a game of inches. This is the exact same metaphor. Time is distance, distance is time, when talking about sprinting or sport in general.
When you really sit down and think about the value of these inches, or hundredths of a second, you realize that Al Pacino was right, and they really are everywhere. Right now you are just thinking of each stride, or each change-of-direction, but it’s about more than that. It’s the habits you keep. The decisions you make on a daily basis that make up those inches. My favourite comparison for this concept is with supplementation and muscle protein synthesis. Beginners will have these grand illusions that supplements will dramatically change you, that you can feel the difference right after taking them (stimulants can do this but…). Yet the veteran athletes or lifters out there understand it’s the opposite, that the effect is subtle. They are still the ones though that won’t be caught without a post-workout shake. Why is that? If the effect is so small, why are they so fastidious about the habit? The answer is in that hundredth of a second. If you knew that your post=workout nutrition contributed a 0.01% to your performance, that may seem small, but over your 200+ training sessions a year, thats an extra 2%. If you can find another 2% from not drinking alcohol, or maintaining tissue health, keeping regular communication with a sport medicine professional, following your training plan, eating properly, we just found 10% or more. This is the power of habit, the power of numbers, and the power of the last hundredth.
If you knew that your next sporting event would be decided by 0.01 seconds how would it affect your behaviours over the next week?
The problem we sometimes run into as strength coaches is that we’ll program in certain exercises but we don’t always get to see them carried out by our athletes. Not until I can bend space and time at least, but that’s another story. In an ideal world, we would get to see every athlete, every day. Unfortunately, we’re left programming for guys with different schedules or, out of: city, province, country. At least you know that they’ll be giving our program their full effort, however they may have habits we dislike or misconceptions about a given lift.
The benefit nowadays, is that you can upload videos of any lifts to be seen worldwide. What we’re trying to do is create a bit of a library so that our athletes can hop on youtube and pick up some technical cues and get a good idea for the do’s and don’ts of a given lift. If there’s any lift that you need help with, let us know in the comments. In the meantime, here are a few videos to get you started!
Sorry for the delay but here’s some recent questions answered!! As usual, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on our facebook page if you have a question that needs to be answered!!
Paleo…Is it necessary for results?
With Crossfit taking over the world, and paleo being the nutritional approach to Crossfit, it is really easy to feel the need to go paleo.
There is a famous saying in the health/fitness world…what is the best program? The one you follow. Well nutrition is not a lot different…the key to getting success from all your hard work comes from an equally strong focus on your nutrition. As long as you can stick to strong principles, you will do well. For example, I have a friend who is more shredded than most human beings, he goes by timbahwolf on Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. If you follow any of his accounts, you’ll see that he eats whatever he wants…junk food, fast food, etc. It would seem unlikely that he is so shredded. The key is though, that he has been tracking his nutritional intake for the last decade or so. He makes random food choices, but always sticks to pre-determined macronutrient intakes. Follow principles, whether its good ingredients, no processed food, specific macronutrient ratios, or whatever you wish, but that is the key to success… Now to clarify, if you do eat of lot of the quesitonable foods, it’s extremely important not to overdo it, that’s why you need to focus on your food diary.
Do Supplements Really Matter?
The truth is the mind is much more powerful than any supplement. I have seen people get hyooge with a full-cupboard of supplements, and I’ve also seen people get jacked on water (and food of course). If you push yourself and truly believe that you are capable of great things, your body will continue to build. Having said that, supplements are heavily researched and a number of them are VERY likely to have a positive effect. Whether it is by increasing muscle protein synthesis, decreasing muscle breakdown or improving work capacity, there are a number of supplements that improve physiological adaptations. The big thing is that they are small percentages. Will you feel the difference tomorrow? No. Add up all those little tiny gains over a long consistent journey of good health/training and you end up with big results! Point is, when you are working with a budget, start with the essentials (we have addressed those here) and when you find some products you like, or great deals, make supplementation a critical part of your process.
What is the Best Program??
Play sports, and master the basics. Every athlete has a different set of experiences that forms how they perform today. With that in mind, every athlete has specific needs to ENSURE that they are developing optimally, and taking care of the important details that prevent injury. If we were to put a mask over that (which I don’t suggest…) then the most appropriate program for any athlete is to build the basics in the weight room and practice your sport. There are so many skills involved with sport that you can always be working on your game. The weight room is intended to build the capacities of force and power (strength) to support your sport. With the appropriate time and energy, a coach can build a very comprehensive program to help you be the best athlete you can be, but on a time/energy/cost budget, it’s important to just MASTER the basics first. Squat, bench, clean and snatch!